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XO Commander Kuari
Posted: Fri Aug 19, 2016 6:02 pm
Posted: Fri Aug 19, 2016 6:05 pm
by Kuari and Kathryn Harper, with Roxanne Carre
Kuari trotted down the corridor towards the Captain’s quarters. When she reached the door, she hesitated and sat back, staring at it for a moment. It wasn’t Ian Blackthorne she would find behind it, it was now Kathryn Harper. She had to remind herself to come here instead of Kate’s old quarters, and now that she was here, she wasn’t sure if she should proceed.
Furrowing the ridges over her eyes, Kuari mustered her courage. Even though Kate was now a captain with much more responsibility, she was still the same inside. Perhaps now she would be even more receptive than in the past. Determined, Kuari pressed the door chime. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to try.
It was after hours, but the Captain was still at work, laying on her couch reading a PADD from the pile that graced the coffee table. Kate found herself rubbing her temple to try to stall an oncoming headache when the door rang. She stood, returning the PADD to its brethren, and answered, “Come in!”
Padding in as the doors swished open, the Rucara immediately spotted Kate. She dropped her tail to the floor and curled it around her feet so the door could close. “Am I disturbing you, Captain?”
Half-expecting Lexy to be at the door, Kate was surprised as Kuari instead entered the room. It had been some time since the Rucara had paid her a visit, and she couldn’t help but to smile. “Of course not, Kuari. To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?”
“I know there is a lot going on right now, and you’re very busy, but...do you remember what we used to do, before Roxy left? I was wondering...would you like to go for a swim?”
Having grown up in a coastal town, Kate had always been an avid swimmer and greatly enjoyed the activity, so it was natural that she and her like-minded friends would gravitate toward the water. The three of them used to make it a point to go once a week or so, but her draconine friend had a point; they had stopped swimming when Roxy left the ship. Her mind wandered for a moment, remembering the first time they had all found a pool together, which had to be at least five years ago now, if not more.
Through the relaxing steam rising from the surface of the jacuzzi’s bubbling surface, Kate watched Kuari approach the swimming pool.
Roxy snickered under her breath, thinking of the huge dragon trying to bathe in their suite’s small restroom upstairs. She smiled, glad that there was an alternative for her friend and coworker. “Last one in's a rotten egg!” she yelled as she cannonballed into the pool, hoping to douse Kate with some cooler water.
Kuari, her front paws at the edge, stuck a tentative tongue into the water. As Roxy hit the surface, she grinned good-naturedly, turned, and quickly retreated from the pool. Putting all her energy into her back legs, she sprinted from the wall and cleared the edge, landing a good ten feet beyond Roxy. As she quickly bobbed to the surface, her face fell.
“You splashed better than I did!”
Kate eyed them both from under still-languid eyelids, despite the double splashes of cold water. “I would say you both did quite well,” she said, her voice mockingly flat.
Roxy laughed and made a face at Kate. “C’mon, don’t be a spoilsport! You were far too relaxed and made an obvious target.” Turning, she looked at Kuari. “You make a bigger splash if you can contort part of your body into a ball shape, so think torpedo and try again.”
Kuari was already snaking to the edge of the pool and climbing out. The water slid off her fur like it would a duck’s back, beading on her shoulders and on top of her nose before she shook it off. She turned and paused, thinking, then ran for it again.
This time, the Rucara tucked her feet as closely as she could against her body, and she made a slightly bigger splash, but it still didn’t match what Roxy could do. Kuari whipped her head from side to side, flinging water.
“I’m just not heavy enough, even when I expel all my breath. You win! Champion Jump Splasher. Although...” A slow grin stretched back across her face as her tail moved, sliding across the surface and sending a fine spray across Roxy, Kate, and halfway up the far wall.
After a sharp gasp from the shock of the colder water, Kate rose from the hot tub’s protective warmth. “Okay, okay, I give up!” she said, raising her hands in surrender. Wet footprints followed her as she walked across what must have been the one remaining dry patch of floor to the diving board. With two quick bounces, Kate sprung off the board’s end and arced gracefully into the pool, barely making a splash. The temperature was still a shock after the jacuzzi, but by the time she surfaced, it felt refreshing. Slicking back her hair with both hands, she made her way to water shallow enough to stand and flashed a sunny smile. “How was that?”
“Hmmm, not too bad on the dive,” Roxy judged,“but your form needs a little work. Watching Kuari wield that tail into an awesome spray-arc was something, though!” Roxy eyed the food longingly. “Since my butt is getting mooshy, it’s twenty laps for me, then I’m hitting the jacuzzi and the food. Also, the movie is queued up.” Roxy winked at Kate, but addressed Kuari, “I hear there is a pretty hot dragon in this movie!”
“And it’s fifty times my size, right?” Kuari swam around, the surface of the pool drawing a straight line from her nose to the tip of her tail except when she lifted her head to speak. “I don’t think I’d like to be so big. I couldn’t fit into people houses!”
Kate had reclined into a back float once the waters settled a bit from the splashing and let the water take her where it would. Raising her head briefly out of the water, she added, “You could just sit on them, though.”
Kuari made an amusing face of confusion. “The people or the houses?”
“Well, either, I suppose.”
There was a significant pause before Kuari said anything more. “Hey, Kate? You’re one of the Sharks, right?”
“Yes, of course. Why?” Kate asked quizzically, wondering why that question would come up now.
“Well, because I’m the shark, now!” Kuari began swishing the water with her tail and lowered her head to the surface menacingly in Kate’s direction.
While Roxy laughed uproariously, Kate feigned fear and began to quickly swim the other way.
“You know, Kuari, you are absolutely right.” Kate began, regarding her friend with an apologetic look. “We stopped when Roxy left, but there was no reason to, and I could certainly use a break now. But, would you mind if I invite Lexy along? After all, we need a third person to laugh at us, yes?”
A broad, zipper-like grin spread over Kuari’s face. “Not at all!”
With a smile, Kate answered, “Then I will give her a call! Just give me a few minutes to change into some swimwear and to get a towel.”
Re: SEC 1Lt Kuari
Posted: Fri Aug 19, 2016 8:43 pm
A catalog of my thoughts:
1) Awww, this is adorable! And not just because Kuari, but because friendship is magic.
2) Awww, I miss Roxy.
, but still
3) I get to come next time, yayayayayay!
Posted: Wed Jul 05, 2017 9:47 pm
Marine Captain Kuari trotted down the empty but familiar Atlantis corridor on all fours, bright-eyed, resolute and projecting a new sense of purpose. While she knew that being Executive Officer of a Starfleet vessel was no easy task, she had not been aware of just how versatile the role required one to be. It was always clear to her that knowing how to be in command was required, and Kuari had done a fair amount of commanding squads of marines for several years, so the concept wasn’t new to her. When Captain Harper had offered her the position if she could pass the tests, she was sure she could expand on her knowledge and improve in this way, and she had been ready to embrace the challenge.
Knowing how to command subordinate officers was just the beginning, however. While the Bridge Operations test didn’t require her to be an expert in every department represented on the Bridge, she did have to know basic operations of each station. Kuari skipped sections such as “How to Fire Quantum Torpedoes” since she had manned Tactical many times before, but she paid careful attention to other topics like “Rerouting Power to Main Deflector” and “Navigating ‘A’ to ‘B’.” Overall, this wasn’t a difficult test, as many functions were cross-trained from the station she was already familiar with.
First Contact Procedures was fairly simple, too. For example, concerning more primitive cultures, just don’t do it. For situations where a more trained diplomat and xenobiological team can’t be arranged, first impressions are key and you do your best to represent the Federation in a positive and sensible way. The test was a subcategory of the Diplomatic Law test, which was more challenging in its complexity, but with Kuari’s experience as an officer, she was able to pass it. She had learned about the Federation’s treaties and alliances as a cadet many years ago, but this test challenged her practical knowledge of each one so that she would be able to recall their details when necessary and know what agreements between peoples had worked in the past and what had failed and should probably not be repeated.
The Engineering test had to be the most difficult of all the tests she had to study for. The ship’s layout was familiar to her as a Security officer and she was aware of key areas that intruders might target with boarding parties, but the complexity of ship systems, where they can be found and the connecting paths they took throughout the decks overwhelmed her. Not only did she need to memorize procedures for dozens of scenarios from Main Engineering, she had to perform them in a time-sensitive holographic simulation.
None of these tests were anything like the screening test that preceded them all, however. As Kuari turned into her quarters and the doors swished closed behind the trailing end of her tail, she came to a stop and peered around the dark room. That first test, she would never forget…
“Shields!” Kuari bellowed across the shuddering holographic bridge of the USS Atlantis.
“Down!” the holographic Major Wolfe character yelled back from Tactical.
His response elicited a frustrated growl low in Kuari’s throat, and it carried through her response. “Weapons!”
“I’ve got nothing!” Wolfe growled back in his human way, his English accent bleeding through with his raised voice. “Well, I’ve got a few torpedoes left, but no way to bloody fire them!”
The image of the damaged unknown enemy vessel floating adrift on the main viewer flickered, simulating a power interruption across the ship. It had gone for her weapons and engines first. They were hunters, they said, and intended to kill everyone aboard her ship. No prisoners. The enemy crew outnumbered hers three to one. While Kuari stared at the image from the center of the Bridge, her mind was awhirl with decisions and the tip of her tail flicked from side to side in agitation. What was the answer? There had to be one, unless this was meant to be another Kobayashi Maru scenario used to throw cadets into a no-win situation.
Kuari had not been instructed to study for this test, but she couldn’t help but wonder if a more prepared officer would have an advantage over her. If she had time to study ahead, learn more about command from the tests she had yet to take, would she have passed already?
With a quick shake of her head, she dismissed the thought. Kuari had to trust Captain Harper and those running the test to know what they were doing.
“Boarding parties on decks two, ten, twelve, sixteen…”
“Seal the Bridge!” Kuari commanded, her security background kicking in instantly. “Marines, respond to those decks, especially Engineering!” At least she could make a decision quickly about something during her moments of uncertainty as it seemed the battle was definitely not in her favor. If Wolfe’s likeness was anything like the real person she knew, however, the program would have already done so before she gave the order.
“Multiple hull breaches, decks five, eight through twelve, fourteen through eighteen, twenty-two … “ Wright’s character from Operations reported.
“Emergency force fields!” Kuari replied, imagining her holey holographic ship resembling a notable Earth cheese.
“I’m trying, sir, but power is failing…”
“Right. Reroute power, from...I don’t know, somewhere!” Kuari hedged lamely, suddenly feeling overwhelmed. Was she really the right person to command a starship? If only she could have studied before this test!
“More incoming transports, deck sixteen...two...eleven…”
Kuari pulled in a deep breath, filling her lightweight chest cavity and closing her eyes. Make a command decision with the information she had. No one was going to tell her what to do this time, but she would never give up and always fight to the end. Her ship couldn’t move or defend itself, but neither could theirs. Power was partially compromised, hull breaches were everywhere, and enemy crew members were transporting more and more onto her ship. She still had the advantage of numbers, but eventually they would overwhelm her defending Marine force.
She had to stop them. What had Wolfe said? There were a few useless torpedoes left down there, but there was no way to use them. Kuari turned her head towards Tactical. “You said there was no way to fire torpedoes. Did you mean the guidance system is down?”
“Aye!” Wolfe confirmed. “But I don’t even have telemetry. I can’t even aim manually at a set of coordinates. Control from the Bridge has been severed.”
Kuari could operate the Tactical console as was expected of her, but she trusted Wolfe behind the console even more. Without automatic targeting, however, his manual aim was far better than hers as it required mathematical precision, something he excelled at. Even his expertise was useless, though, if the torpedo launchers wouldn’t point where he wanted them to go.
Then, it came to her. He could do something Kuari would never think to do herself.
“Could you manually target the enemy vessel from the torpedo launcher itself?”
Wolfe looked up at her from his useless console. A small smirk brightened his face. “Certainly, I can.”
Kuari’s finned ears perked upward with the glimmer of hope on the horizon. “Transporters! Are they functional?”
Her tactical officer was nodding. “Yes, but a site-to-site transport would take more power than we can spare.”
“We can spare it. We have to.” Kuari was now facing Wolfe from the other side of his console. “Take it from life support, if you have to. It’s just one transport!”
“Captain,” Wright interrupted almost apologetically while she studied her console and shook her head, “I’ve run an internal scan of the torpedo bay. The hull surrounding it is highly unstable. Wolfe could beam in and probably target something, but the firing system would no doubt collapse its support structure to that part of the deck.” She met Kuari’s eyes in defeat. “Even if Wolfe survived exposure to the vacuum in his suit, he would certainly be crushed.”
Her ears dropped, betraying her lack of confidence to her crew. It had seemed like such a good idea, too. What other options did she have, if not the torpedoes? Perhaps she should concentrate on getting enough power to the shields instead to stop more boarding parties, but then, she could barely get enough power for one transport...
She needed Wolfe alive, Kuari told herself, to help deal with these boarding parties. As she spoke, they were no doubt attempting to infiltrate the Bridge from just one deck below.
No, she couldn’t let him die. The memory of the monstrous gorn on top of him, of her leaping onto its back and twisting its head in her jaws until the neck snapped, flashed through her mind. Wolfe had been so close to death then, and she had saved his life with a moment’s decision. If she could do it then, she could do it now.
Atlantis shuddered around them. She was Kuari’s responsibility, and every crew member aboard her. The decision had to be hers, and it had to be now. Every minute allowed for more enemy transports, bringing them closer and closer to being overwhelmed. They would kill every last member of her crew if she didn’t act now.
Kuari shut her eyes in defeat, opening them to take one last look at Major Wolfe, her friend and colleague she had trained with for many years.
Wolfe gazed back at her and nodded curtly. His dark eyes were hard and determined, proud to do his job and do it well. Glancing down, he initiated the transport. The beam swirled around him, and he was gone.
A moment later, the bridge scene vanished as well, revealing an expansive grid pattern that covered the cube-like room she had been in the whole time. Kuari lowered her hindquarters to the floor and drooped her head. Footfalls alerted her to someone approaching, and she looked up out of duty. It was Captain Harper. Time to face the consequences. Would she be able to take the test again?
“What did I miss?” Kuari asked, determined to know the answer.
“Not a thing,” Harper replied, her voice level. “You passed. Congratulations.”
Her eyebrow ridges furrowed in confusion. “Passed? But…certainly that wasn’t the best solution!”
“Your duty is to the ship. You did what you had to do to save it. Sometimes, that means making a difficult choice. It is one of the necessary requirements of being in command.”
Kuari looked at the floor in thought. Even though it made sense, she didn’t have to like it. The decision had been very difficult. The idea of losing Wolfe felt real, and she had almost forgot she was in a simulation. She had made the right decision in the end, because really, she had already known what had to happen. Her experience as a Marine taught her that sacrifices must be made sometimes for the good of the many. It didn’t mean that the decision had felt right, however.
“Come on,” Harper encouraged with a knowing smile of compassion. “You have some studying to do if you want to pass the rest of the tests. Shall we get started?”
Kuari raised her head and stood up, pulling herself out of her troubled thoughts. “Yeah. Yeah, I do!” She grinned at Harper and began to walk alongside her out of the room. “I passed! The rest should be easier, right?”
Captain Harper nodded thoughtfully. “No doubt they will be.”
Kuari stood within the darkness of her quarters aboard Atlantis, this time not in a simulation at Starfleet Academy on Earth, but on the actual ship she called home. She had really done it. The idea that she was now qualified to command this entire vessel filled her with awe and apprehension, but she knew by experience that the troubled feelings would pass and she would fall into the role once she became accustomed to it. She could do this!
Walking to one wall, Kuari sat in front of it and stared at the blank space for a moment. Shifting her weight and reaching one paw into the pouch at her belly, she pulled out a small ornate plaque and carefully placed it on the wall in front of her. Leaning back, she gazed at it in the darkness.
“Computer, lights to thirty percent.”
The computer chirped acknowledgement and raised the lights, which caused her sensitive eyes to squint at first.
Starfleet Academy hereby grants Kuari the qualification of Bridge Officer, capable of taking command of any Starfleet vessel. Sponsored by Captain Kathryn Harper.
Kuari took in a deep breath of accomplishment. From what she understood, a promotion would soon follow for her to meet the necessary rank requirements of Executive Officer, and she would be moving the plaque to the quarters that used to belong to Harper before her promotion to Captain. For now, though, this wall would do.
A new adventure awaited Kuari. All the heart and effort she put into the Marine Corps to protect her crew she would now carry with her into this new, no more important but certainly more prestigious role, and she was determined to make her crew proud.
Re: SEC Captain Kuari
Posted: Wed Jul 05, 2017 11:12 pm
Wow, a homerun! This not only gives a great account of a tense training simulation through Kuari's unique perspective, but it also makes it personal and shows the growth that the character has achieved after all these years. The feels when she gives the order to sacrifice Wolfe hit hard. Wonderful log!
Command After Hours: After-Party
Posted: Thu Jan 24, 2019 12:03 am
by Kuari and Kathryn Harper
Long after the midnight countdown that rang in the new year of 2398, the holodeck where the party had been held was gradually emptying as the crew of Atlantis finally started to call it a night. Although Captain Harper never expected a prompt start to duty shifts the morning after a ship-wide party, the hour had grown late and the party itself had been adventurous, so she could certainly empathize with the desire to rest. Even after her wife had gone to bed, Kate, ever the socialite and devoted hostess, lingered by the exit until she could personally bid everyone a good night and a happy new year as they left.
Once the last reveler had departed, Kate turned to take one more look at the program she had created for the occasion. It was a recreation of the planet they had named Long Shot 4, orbiting a star near the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. The planet was host to life analogous to Earth’s Cretaceous Period, and they had been forced to witness it end in a similar way, by asteroid strike. Fortunately, the scans they took from the surface prior to that apocalypse had enabled Kate to program this simulation. She had taken some liberties in creating the location for the party, a geothermally-heated lake on a mountainside, but the night sky above was faithful to the original, an incredibly bright nightscape powered by the black hole’s accretion disk and the dense local population of stars.
She had expected to find the holodeck empty, but was still only mildly surprised to see Commander Kuari still present, sitting at the edge of the dock and staring out across the lake, apparently lost in thought. Kate couldn’t help from wondering what had kept her friend and executive officer so late, so she quietly walked past the bar to stand silently by the Rucara at the water’s edge.
Kuari knew she was there, of course, but she hadn’t noticed Harper was no longer seeing people off until her finned ear twitched at her approaching footsteps. The pink, forked tip of her tail began to curl back and forth over the holographic boards of the dock, a common response to being greeted by someone she liked, but she otherwise didn’t move. “This planet really was something special. I wish I had got a chance to see it with my own eyes. I really do love your program.”
Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, Kate smiled. The smell of the air was an approximation, since they had worn envirosuits while on the surface to avoid contaminating the ecosystem, but she imagined it was close enough. The requirement to wear those suits had kept Kuari from the away team; she had not wanted to put on the cumbersome Rucara version, unaware that there would never be another chance. “Thank you,” she answered. “I am glad I could at least partially recreate it for you. Feel free to use it any time you like.”
Kuari’s grateful smile stretched back behind her eyes, but relaxed somewhat as she began to speak. “Places like this are so amazing. We’ve visited so many interesting places and met interesting species. The universe has so much to see, and we haven’t even...what’s the saying? Scratched the surface?” She looked at Kate with a puzzled expression.
“I am not exactly an authority on English idioms, but that sounds right.” Her eyes darted up to the black hole for a moment, then back to her friend. “If the universe is truly infinite, no one is likely to ever do more than scratch the surface. We are fortunate just to have pushed back the frontier and expanded our knowledge of our own little corner of the cosmos.”
“It’s all thanks to Atlantis.” Kuari gazed back up at the stars. “I’m grateful to be able to serve as part of her crew. Rucara don’t typically travel nearly as far as my family has. I’m even more adventurous than my father and mother, and I know they don’t like the danger I find myself in, but they allow it, because it’s what I want to do. I wouldn’t trade this for anything.” She looked back at Kate, her large eyes beaming with excitement.
Kuari’s enthusiasm and excitement were contagious, and Kate found herself wearing a wide smile before she realized it. She recalled those qualities, along with many others such as the Rucara’s boundless optimism, leading her to seek out Kuari’s friendship years ago. “You are extraordinary even among your species who, to us in the Alpha Quadrant, are already unique.”
Her friend’s words echoed similar ones her mother had spoken to her before. Kuari had already processed those ideas, so she took Kate’s observation in stride, focusing intently on her friend next to her. “Ruka would be completely unknown to the Alpha Quadrant if my family had not traveled all this way, even less so had I not been assigned to Atlantis. I sense that I’m meant to be here, with you and all the others. I feel like I belong here.”
“I am so happy to hear you say that,” Kate said as she sat down on the edge of the dock to dangle her bare legs in the hot water, taking a moment to appreciate the heartwarming sentiment. She looked up to meet Kuari’s eyes before continuing, “I have always wanted to foster a sense of belonging, even family, among the crew. It is even one of my goals for these parties. Hearing it from you, though, means so much to me. You do belong here, and we are all made better by the fact that you are.”
“Thank you.” Kuari grinned. “I’ve done my best to perform my role, whether it was in security or command, and I’ve learned a lot over the years.” Backing up slightly, Kuari lay down on the dock so that her front paws dangled over the edge, finding herself more head level with Kate’s now lower position. “It would have been more difficult without your leadership during your time as Captain.”
“Having a command team made up of one of my best friends and my wife makes that easy, at least most of the time,” Kate began, leaning her head on her own shoulder as she smiled up at the sky with a feeling of contented gratitude. “But it is the quality of our crew that gives me the most confidence of our success in the new year.”
Kuari nodded in agreement, also gazing up at the stars. They sat that way for a while, contemplative in their companionable silence. After a while, Kuari looked around at the steamy water in front of them. “What time do we need to be on the bridge in the morning?”
Kate shrugged. “Oh, perhaps ten hundred or so? It is never firm after a big party.”
A mischievous thought occurred to Kuari, and a small upturn at the corner of her mouth was all that betrayed her schooled expression. “Good.” The wing closer to Kate shoved her forwards, tipping her into the water. Kuari wasted no time, expelling the air from her lungs and slipping off the dock into a dive.
Kate let out a surprised yelp as she fell, which was cut off by the water. She quickly surfaced, now thankful that she had neglected to put anything back on atop the white floral-print bikini that she had worn for most of the party. After a quick wipe of her face, Kate looked around in time to notice Kuari’s tail quickly receding into the water amid dissipating waves. With a few adept strokes, she managed to close the distance in time to grab the tip of the Rucara’s tail while taking a deep breath in anticipation of going under.
Kuari was stopped short when her tail snagged on something, and it only took a moment to realize it was Kate. The surprise had caused her to stop, long enough to halt her momentum, and her light body inevitably began rising to the surface. Her plans ruined, she began to curl her body to the side to free her tail.
Although she managed to keep a grip on the otherwise somewhat slippery Rucara tail because of its forked end, Kate was unable to avoid being pulled underwater by Kuari’s twisting motion. From just under the surface, she grinned through the crystal-clear water at her adversary, shaking her head to indicate that there was no escape.
Kate’s confidence only served to embolden Kuari. Freeing her tail was her first priority, and she went for the arm that held it. Her jaws reached further than her limbs could, her mouth opening just before reaching it, remembering to be careful to protect Kate’s skin from her teeth.
Of course, Kate knew that Kuari would never hurt her. Knowing that was one thing, and knowing that and having internalized it at such a base level to not react when a large mouth full of teeth was going for her arm was another. Kate instinctively let go of Kuari’s tail in time to pull her arm away from the attempted bite and made a grab for the horn on the back of Kuari’s head, since it was conveniently close. Connecting with both hands, she held on tight, knowing this was going to be a wild ride.
Only a few air bubbles escaped Kuari’s open mouth as she attempted to yell in frustration. In her haste, she had fallen for this known vulnerability. Her tail was now free, but her head was not. Unfortunately for her, she was running out of oxygen, as she hadn’t brought any down with her so that she could more easily sink. Flapping her sluggish wings, Kuari easily brought them to the surface where she took in a deep breath, making them float even higher.
Kuari extended her neck trying to pull her horn away, but Kate held on and was pulled onto her back. She tried to club her capturer with the back of her wings, but she couldn’t do so with much force. If Kate were an actual enemy, Kuari would have used the opportunity to fire the projectile spike that lay mounted on the underside of her horn, but both of them knew she wouldn’t. Instead she just growled, taking a moment to catch her breath and appreciate Kate’s prowess. “You’ve got me!”
Exploding into laughter, Kate let go of Kuari’s horn, then wrapped her arms around the base of the Rucara’s neck for a quick hug. Sitting up on Kuari’s back, she waited for her laughter to subside into a feeling of warm bonhomie before saying, “That was fun!”
Kuari turned her head to the side to look back at Kate with one eye, her jaw slack with her tongue hanging out. “It was.” After a moment she looked towards the river with another idea, then back at Kate. Perhaps she would win after all. “Race you to the river?”
Despite Kate’s pedigree as a competitive swimmer, years of swimming together had taught her that Kuari was faster in the water. Needing every advantage she could get in such a race, her answer was a noncommittal look before suddenly diving sideways off of Kuari’s back. Kate swam hard for the river with well-practiced form, but Kuari immediately gave chase and was soon right on her heels.
Posted: Thu Feb 28, 2019 8:47 pm
It all happened so fast.
Kuari registered the aggressive movement, drawing her attention, but it wasn’t clear what was happening until the familiar sound of concussive impact against organic tissue and breaking bone alerted her senses. The draconic Ykavosh had struck Captain Harper across the face, immediately injuring and disabling her.
How had Kuari not seen it coming?
Once a proud and effective member of the Marines aboard a Federation flagship, Kuari’s first inclination to an attack on her commanding officer should have been to strike back. Not only that, this towering alien had assaulted her best friend.
The blood welled and flowed out between Kate’s fingers as she clutched her face.
It was Kuari’s duty to defend her, to sacrifice herself to protect her Captain. Was she losing her edge?
Bright flashes from energy weapons discharging and the accompanying zing of plasma had Kuari whipping her head back towards the enemy. The guards were shooting them. She quickly looked back to see Major Wolfe crumpling to the ground. A second later they were shooting again, and Second Lieutenant Grey fell. The Marines had been reaching for their weapons, but the Xovul were faster.
Kuari remembered standing there on all fours, stunned. If she had responded as her Marines had, as they were trained, Kuari would have been disabled, too.
“You do not follow the Xov. Either you will, or you will die.”
The Ykavosh was saying something. Kuari needed to listen, but her brain just wanted to turn off and let her body act.
Commander Wright was with Captain Harper. Yes, of course she was. Grey had rushed in to assist, too, and it was the rise of her phaser that had got her disabled, but Wright was still there. Kuari wanted to shield Harper, but moving would only get her shot. There was nothing she could do that Wright couldn’t at this point. All of her people were doing what they needed to.
Except her. Kuari’s role was no longer to defend, but to lead.
She had already failed in this. The Ykavosh had told them not to move, hadn’t he? Kuari should have seen the weapons trained on them and told everyone to cooperate, but she hadn’t. She had just stood there.
Seconds after the Xovul had dematerialized, Kuari was being carried by her own transporter beam, and Sickbay formed around her. The entire away team was there with her. Doctors and nurses rushed to attend to Harper, Wolfe and Grey. They were all safe! What were they to do now? Kuari looked to Captain Harper for orders, but Kate couldn’t lead, let alone speak.
Oh. Right. That duty fell to her, didn’t it? Slowly but mercilessly, the great weight of Atlantis settled heavily onto her back. The Red Alert klaxons blared all around them, muted as they were in Sickbay. No, they were not safe.
The past could not be changed, but one thing that carried through from her Marine training was that she had to deal with now, and she could never give up.
Kuari recalled coming out of her stupor and yelling orders to the bridge. She had transported there immediately, where the ship’s acting commanding officer belonged. Her gut told her to chase the enemy, to show the Xovul what Atlantis and her crew were capable of, and to show no mercy for their transgression. Once again she had to force herself to think instead, and she remembered what the Ykavosh had threatened.
“...I advise you leave this place. We will return to claim it, and if you are here and not willing to follow the Xov when we return, you will die.”
Obviously, they were not going to “follow the Xov”, so a confrontation was to be expected. Atlantis didn’t need to chase down the Xovul ship if they intended to come back, and when they did, Atlantis needed to defend the colony on the planet below. Yes, that was the proper course of action, the one Kuari knew Captain Harper would take.
Orders had been given, and the bridge was a flurry of activity. Kuari had been pacing the center of the bridge, side to side in front of the command chairs, thinking better as her body moved. She racked her brain as she thought of what else could be done, but there wasn’t more to do at the moment. While the ship as a whole waited for the Xovul’s indefinite return, Kuari herself forced herself to stop moving as she awaited Captain Harper’s return. She knew her friend Kate was strong and stubborn and would return to the bridge as soon as she was able to command. In that eventuality, she would want a report of their status and could resume making the decisions of what to do next herself. Yes, Kuari could expect this soon, no doubt, and she would not have the weighty responsibility much longer.
Kuari recognized the symptoms of shock within her. So much had happened in a short period of time, and she had yet to process it all. That would come in time, she knew, but not now. Even though she could now take a moment to breathe, she had to reserve this time to consider command decisions, not her own feelings of failure. That determination made, she still couldn’t keep the visage of the Ykavosh from floating before her mind, his calculating and what she now knew to be cruel eyes regarding her.
“I have never heard of Rucara, but I can see passing similarities between us.”
Kuari’s gut coiled in revulsion at trust betrayed, and her spine stiffened in pride of her moral upbringing. She found herself muttering out loud, a habit that was not hers.
“We’re nothing alike.”
Re: XO Commander Kuari
Posted: Fri Mar 01, 2019 4:58 am
What a wonderful reaction from Kuari, and a well-written one, too! I especially liked the ending. This is your XO, folks!
Posted: Fri Nov 08, 2019 11:22 pm
by Kuari and Kathryn Harper
The forest was unfamiliar, stretching in every direction. There were no nav points, nor were there even any maps. They had no data at all, not even any devices to create any. There was only what one could see and hear, smell and touch. Even so, life remained hidden within the thick brush, peering out at the alien that walked amongst it.
The only similar situation Kuari had been in was years ago, in a randomly-generated simulation in one of her Marine courses. They were given no armor or devices of any kind, with the goal being just to survive. Even then, it was just a simulation, with safeties and a computer that would respond to what was commonly referred to as an “out” command. Here, there were no safeties, no computer. This was real, or at least she had to assume it was.
She was no stranger to the real thing in away missions, however she had always had a commbadge, and usually a ship in orbit above, awaiting her call. When the stress began to get to her, Kuari’s response was to reach for her commbadge, but it wasn’t there. She had to keep reminding herself that as far as she could tell, she and Kate were alone.
The air was colder now as the sun was setting behind the trees. She had no armor as she tended to have as a Marine, not even a uniform. At least she wasn’t without fur like Kate was, but Kuari’s fur had not grown long in preparation for a winter, so it only kept in the heat so much.
The cave they had found had been their first real accomplishment as they had walked for hours through the forest, having yet found no water sources or natural shelters. They could have taken the time to fashion something to keep out rain and wind, but that would take time away from searching, and they had chosen to keep looking for water or other people. She and Kate had reluctantly agreed to stay at the cave only because their remaining daylight hours were few, and the trickle of water they had found at the back of the cave would have to be enough.
Kuari suddenly stopped, catching a whiff of something with fur. She put her nose to the air, turning her head in an attempt to locate the source, listening carefully with perked ears. The steady drone of insects was growing in volume, with more joining the chorus as nightfall approached. So many sounds and smells on this planet were unfamiliar, and she had not actually hunted down something by scent in a long, long time. Kuari felt woefully inadequate as an alien to this environment, one used to life on a starship, warm and well fed, but if the opportunity to capture a fresh meal of meat presented itself, she wouldn’t pass it up.
Some time passed, following the scent as best she could, and her nose eventually led her in the right direction. The pungent smell was stronger now, so Kuari began to creep slowly, low to the ground so as not to be seen. She couldn’t see much through the thick brush, and it was all she could do to step carefully and not make a sound. Unfortunately, she wasn’t careful enough and snapped a twig.
A sudden rustling ahead startled her. As she watched, plants shivered violently in a path leading away from her. Kuari’s lack of experience caused her to hesitate, and she growled to herself in frustration. Desperate to catch up she took flight, but whatever she was chasing was quick to change direction and she landed too far.
Adrenaline was now raging through her, and it was all Kuari could do to watch her footing as instinct caused her to hyper-focus on her prey. She ran, cornered, feinted and leapt in a mad chase, only using her wings to clear large objects, cutting off the animal’s path and forcing it to change direction yet again. Finally, Kuari pounced near where the motion stopped, but nothing moved and all she could hear was the sound of her own labored breathing. Panicked that she had lost it, she bellowed loudly. This worked, as a scurrying started off into a clearing, the animal having nowhere else to go.
Kuari could finally see it. As she gave chase, the form of a small, oversized rabbit-like creature fled with all its waning might, tired and vulnerable in the open space. The Rucara’s much longer gait carried her close to her quarry within seconds. Ready for the rabbit’s change in direction, she cornered with the creature and her long neck gave her the reach necessary to gain a solid grip across its back with her jaws.
It stopped struggling almost immediately. She had bitten down harder than she intended to, but in this case it was probably a mercy. The taste of blood was a shock, and Kuari just stood in place for a while, finding it difficult to calm herself down. She needed to take this back to Kate. The kill still in her mouth, she looked at the sky. If she didn’t go now, it would be difficult to find the cave. Stretching out her wings, Kuari got her bearings, turned in the direction she thought she should go, and took flight.
It had taken a while to scavenge the large pile of branches and twigs in front of her, but Kate finally judged it to be sufficient to get them through the night, provided that she could put her survival training to use. Having had no food today, she was tired and hungry from her exertions, but there was no time to rest until the priorities of survival were addressed, and that meant getting a fire going. Kate knelt at the cave mouth and began to stack the largest of the branches, laying two down parallel to each other, then two more on top of that, perpendicular to the first two to form a square, repeating until she had a box a few layers tall. Inside of that, she added smaller sticks and twigs, leaning them against each other, with an opening in the middle that she filled with dry leaves.
Now came the painful part. Kate stood and plucked out several hairs from the back of her head, continuing until she had enough to twist together into a red strand. She tied this to each end of a small curved branch that she had pulled off a live tree, taut enough to cause a slight bow. Kate retrieved another stick she had set aside from the pile, about a half a meter in length, and twisted it into the bowstring one time before placing the completed bow drill on the ground next to the makings of a campfire. As if to remind her of why she was literally pulling her hair out to create a fire, the wind picked up and raised goosebumps all across her fair freckled skin, sending a wave of shivers through her body.
“Alright, I get it,” she answered through gritted teeth, her resolve to succeed strengthened. Picking out a fairly stout dry branch from the extras, she hefted the semi-sharp rock she had found on their journey to this cave and began to hack at the wood. After several strenuous minutes, Kate finally managed to wear a rough groove into the branch, which she filled one end of with more bits of dry leaves. Picking up the bow drill, she placed one foot on either side of the branch to keep it from rolling, then squatted above it and began to spin the drill in the groove, using the rock to apply downward pressure to the top of the spindle.
The mechanical advantage construed by the bowstring caused the spindle to spin faster and with less effort than it would take using her hands alone, and after a few minutes, an ember began to glow beneath it. Kate brushed the tinder closer and began to gently blow, not wanting to scatter it, and her efforts were rewarded with a small flame. Suppressing her excitement, Kate methodically moved the burning tinder to the larger pile inside the wooden structure, then grinned as it too caught fire. Soon, the flames had spread from the kindling to the thicker branches, and Kate was welcoming its heat to her chilled body. Now, she could finally rest and wait for Kuari to return, hoping that her friend would bring something to eat back with her.
Fortunately, it was not long before Kate could hear flapping wings approaching, just as the evening twilight started to deepen. Instinctively, she stood, defensively brandishing her walking stick and sharp rock until she could verify that those wings belonged to her companion.
Kuari approached the fire, its light making it easier to pinpoint the cave mouth in the waning light. She had landed a short distance away, not wanting to accidentally blow out the flames with her wingbeats. Dropping the carcass from her mouth near the fire, she stretched her cramped jaws and gratefully sat near the warmth of the fire.
Kate relaxed once it was apparent that the approaching figure was indeed Kuari, and she made no effort to cover herself; it would have made no difference since they had awakened in this state, but even then, it had not been awkward for them. Neither of their native cultures had any innate issues with nudity, so Kate’s lack of clothing was nothing Kuari had not seen while they were alone together in the locker room before or after their regular swims over the years, and Kuari generally did not wear anything to swim no matter who was present. Not that their situation gave them any choice in the matter, but at least embarrassment and modesty were simply non-issues for the Risan and the Rucara, their lack of protection against the environment notwithstanding. The day’s work had already left Kate with several scrapes and scratches to add further annoyances on top of the cold, but those became secondary concerns when she saw that Kuari had been successful in her hunt.
Kate’s face brightened as Kuari dropped the dead animal, and she sprang over to take a look, then wrapped her arms around her friend’s neck and hugged. “Kuari! You are back safely, and with food! Thank you!”
Kuari smiled and wrapped an arm around Kate’s back, but she was careful to keep her messy mouth away from her. “And you got a fire going to cook it! The warmth feels really good. It should keep the chill off tonight. Do you have enough wood?”
With a gesture to the decently-sized pile of branches and twigs that she had stashed just inside the mouth of the cave, Kate replied, “I think so. At least, I hope so. I was running out of light, so it will have to do.”
Nodding, Kuari looked back at the dead animal. “If we need more later, I can find some. For now, let’s figure out how to cook this.” Hooking open the pouch low on her belly with one thumb, she reached inside and pulled out three apple-sized fruits. “I also found these in the trees on my way back.”
“Oh, how fortunate! I hope they taste good.” Kate hastily reached for one of the fruits, her rumbling stomach getting the best of her, but a sudden thought of Kuari’s welfare made her pause. “Wait, you do not eat much meat, so perhaps you should have them?”
Kuari tossed her head in a short nod. “You eat that one. The tree is not far. If they are good to eat, I will get more. I didn’t want to be greedy until I knew I would eat them. I doubt they will give the nutrition I am used to aboard Atlantis, though, so…” She looked down at the large furry carcass. “…I’ll eat some of this, but you can have most of it.”
As soon as Kuari had offered the fruit again, Kate took it and hungrily bit into it, finding the flesh to be fibrous and resembling a peach, while the taste was tart with a pleasant underlying sweetness. After swallowing, she nodded at Kuari. “Not bad. I hope it is not poisonous, but beggars cannot be losers.” Taking another bite, Kate indicated their meal-to-be and said through a mouthful of fruit, “Can you, uh, skin and gut that? With your claws, maybe?”
The Rucara pulled a face of distaste, but nodded anyway. “Yeah, I’m sure I can.” Picking up the carcass, Kuari studied it for a moment, then looked around and found a spot further from camp where she could make a mess. She then proceeded to experiment at taking it apart. It wasn’t a fun process, but it was sort of fascinating at the same time. She used the distant light of the fire to see what she was doing, carefully extending one claw from her paw to keep the hide in large pieces in case they could use it later.
As Kuari went to work, Kate devoured the rest of the fruit and, after licking her hands clean of the sticky juice, ventured as far away from the warmth of the fire as she dared to watch Kuari dissect the creature. Her eyes grew wide at how easily Kuari’s claws tore through the hide and flesh; at some level, she knew that the Rucara had formidable natural weapons and was fully capable of using them, but Kate had never personally witnessed the act. Her lovable dragon friend was an effective predator, when she had to be, and Kate found herself even more grateful that Kuari was a trusted ally.
Kuari looked up at Kate as she pried open the ribcage to remove the guts. “Find something to use as a spit and I’ll skewer it. I don’t want you to have to get your hands dirty with raw animal.”
Startled out of watching the grisly display, Kate nodded and ducked inside the cave to find a suitable spit. She selected a long branch that was already broken to a rough edge, and then grabbed her rock to help shape the point. After a few angled strikes, the point was somewhat sharper, but still crude, so she continued to hone it until it was the best result that the primitive tool could provide. Taking a moment to appraise her handiwork, she let out a noncommittal “eh” before carrying the spear out to Kuari.
Taking the sharp stick with approval, Kuari carefully speared the carcass lengthwise, then handed the clean end to Kate with a smile. “Here you are, one ready-to-be-cooked whatever-it-is. With any luck, it will taste like bacon.”
“I hope it does!” Kate laughed. “But I think that if I hope for that, I will only set myself up for disappointment. Still, thank you.” She gratefully accepted the meal-on-a-stick and headed for the fire to cook it.
Some time later, they sat by the fire with full stomachs and a pile of bones next to them. “It was not bacon, but I do not think that was half bad,” Kate mused. “It could have used some salt and pepper, at least.”
Kuari didn’t respond, choosing to prioritize chewing on a bone over talking. She eventually managed to splinter one and looked at the tiny column of marrow within, then offered it to Kate. “Here, you should take some marrow, too. It’s good for you.”
Kate took the bone and regarded it with a scrunched nose for a moment before deciding that she was in no position to be picky. With a shrug, she dipped a finger into the exposed marrow and tasted it. Surprised to find its rich taste to be pleasant, Kate let out a happy “Mm!” as she swallowed it. “That is not bad! Thank you.”
“Sure.” Heaving a big sigh, Kuari lay down on her side, her belly facing the fire, and closed her eyes. “I’m exhausted. I haven’t been this physical in a long time.”
“Me too,” Kate agreed as she slurped the rest of the marrow. “Running and swimming and playing sports are one thing, but today was a lot of hard work, and that really can be draining.” The topic reminded Kate of her thirst, so with a glance back into the cave, she stood and added, “I am going to get a drink,” before retreating into the darkness to find the trickle of water.
The thought of playing instead of surviving made Kuari think about their crewmates. Were they all safe aboard the ship, she and Kate being the only two down here? Why were they here? How did it happen? She mulled these thoughts over for a little while, not for the first time this day, before finally speaking once Kate had returned. “I hope everyone else is all right.”
All of the work and the meal had kept Kate’s mind from wandering, but now it focused squarely on her wife. Lexy, like all of them, had received survival training and could take care of herself, but these situations could be fickle; even the most rugged survivalist could run into bad luck and not find anything to help keep themselves alive. Kate hoped against all hope that Lexy was safe and sound aboard Atlantis, commanding the ship and working hard to find them, but she had her doubts and could only wish that her wife was not alone in the wilderness. “Since there are two of us here instead of just one, I would guess that there are more of us elsewhere,” she speculated. “Maybe we will find someone soon.”
“Yeah,” Kuari replied in a sleepy voice, “maybe.” She opened her eyes to help her stay awake. “I would prefer they all be aboard ship, but if others are here, we have to find them and help them soon.”
“Agreed. Anyone else trapped here is not as lucky as I am to have a Rucara huntress with them.” Kate regarded her companion for a moment, noticing how tired she seemed, and then offered, “I will take the first watch. You get some sleep.”
Kuari closed her eyes sleepily. “Aye, Captain…” she trailed off. A couple of hours, that’s all she needed, and then she would be alert enough to take over.
The temperature was falling as the night deepened; a freeze was not imminent, but it was uncomfortable enough as evidenced by their visible breaths. The fire helped ward off a truly miserable night, but by no means could make up for Kate’s complete lack of thermal protection. Once Kuari’s eyes closed, Kate wrapped her arms around herself as an intense primal shiver coursed through her, prompting her to notice that the fire could use a bit more fuel. She fetched several more of the thick branches from inside the cave and decided not to sit back down on the cold ground, slowly pacing around the fire and alternating which side of her faced the heat, still hugging herself to try to keep warm.
The fire popped loudly, stirring Kuari enough to hear what sounded like Kate’s teeth chattering together. Was she still cold? Of course she would be, as it was much colder than she was used to, and she didn’t even have any clothes. Opening one eye, Kuari spotted Kate standing nearby. “Do you want me to keep you warm?” she offered in a murmur, raising the wing not pinned to the ground in an inviting gesture.
“Really?” Kate asked hopefully, the prospect of a warm wing for a blanket being quite enticing at the moment, but she didn’t want to assume Kuari would be comfortable with the close contact. Although she had ridden on Kuari’s back before, and their frequent swims had resulted in a few underwater wrestling matches, Kate felt it best to double-check. “You do not mind?”
“Of course I don’t mind. It’s my duty to protect you, in any way, ‘Captain Harper,’” Kuari assured, amused Kate would even think she had to ask.
Captain of what, Kate idly wondered, but she resolved to not dwell on that uncertainty for now, instead deciding to accept Kuari’s offer, getting the sense that it was made as much out of friendship as it was her XO’s keen sense of duty. Perhaps, in this case, they were the same. “Alright,” Kate answered with a smile as she started toward Kuari, but the hide of the animal that had provided their meal caught her eye. Without being dried and cured, it would not last more than a couple of days, but for now, it could certainly be of use. Kate darted over to retrieve it, then returned to Kuari, spreading the hide furry side up near her wing before sitting down on it, grateful for a barrier against the cold ground.
Kuari was glad to see the hide she had carefully kept intact being put to good use. She waited until Kate settled against her, just behind her arm, and draped her forearm over Kate’s legs. Kuari roused further in shock, her eyes widening. “You’re as cold as a stone!” Settling Kate into the crook of her wing, Kuari cocooned her protectively with its leathery expanse, the warmth of the fire radiating pleasantly across it.
“Believe me, I know!” Kate answered with a laugh as she curled up against Kuari’s side, remaining upright so she could keep watch. The Rucara’s warmth did more than just physically warm her; it was heartwarming as well, inspiring Kate to gaze up at the unfamiliar stars, reflecting on what they had overcome so far. After enduring such a rough day, Kate felt that as a team, they had a good chance of survival from being able to rely on one another. “But I will not be for long. Thank you, my friend.”
As Kate’s temperature warmed up, her weight and proximity became a comfort to Kuari. It wasn’t long before she was again fully relaxed, feeling safe under Kate’s watch, the steady crackling of the fire lulling her to sleep.